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Peter Greste | 15 Jul 2012 11:09 GMT
A mother and her two children leave the Bunagana district ahead of an expected round of fighting between rebel M23 soldiers and troops from the Democratic Republic of the Congo army. The UN estimates that more than 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.
Many of the refugees fleeing the fighting in Bunagana district say they have frequently been forced to move since 1994, when the Rwandan genocide drove hundreds of thousands of people over the border into Congo, sowing the seeds of conflicts that continue to this day.
United Nations peacekeepers in light armoured vehicles guard the main intersection in the town of Rutshuru, in eastern Congo, as civilians flee another expected round of fighting. The UN was the last line of defence for the town, as Congolese government troops fled their posts ahead of the M23 rebel advance.
Thousands of people took shelter outside a UN peacekeepers base in Kiwanja as the M23 rebels advanced. Civilians said they feared a repeat of the 2008 massacre in Kiwanja, which was blamed on some of the men who are now part of M23.
An M23 rebel fighter stands watch over Bunagana town from a military post captured from government forces.
M23 rebels relax by the road that connects the town of Bunagana with Rutshuru, after driving out government troops.
M23 fighters show off a captured rocket launcher found on a hill overlooking the border town of Bunagana. The rebels captured the hill and the town from government forces on July 6.
Many M23 fighters are former rebels who agreed to be integrated into the government army under a 2009 agreement. They say they are fighting to push the government to honour that agreement, but the Congolese government and a panel of UN investigators have accused Rwanda of organising, financing and supplying the rebels.
Many M23 fighters are well-armed, with relatively new weapons. The Congolese government says that is evidence of foreign support for the rebels, and that Rwanda is behind the movement. Rwanda, however, has denied the charge.
M23 soldiers relax in trenches around the Congolese army\(***)s military headquarters overlooking Rutshuru. Most government troops left the town before the rebels arrived, and Rutshuru fell without serious fighting.
Lieutenant Kongolo Nadiane (standing, left) talks to his friend and colleague Captain Komayombi Kaposho while he prepares a meal of beans from their vegetable patch at the Rumangabo military base.
Lieutenant Kongolo Nadiane (left) and Captain Komayombi Kaposho outside their barracks at the Rumangabo Military base. Vegetable gardens supplement the soldiers\(***) rations.
Lieutenant Kongolo Nadiane is one of only two military officers out of 2,500 soldiers who chose to remain at the base as the M23 rebels approached.
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